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The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian are both names that you’ve probably come across while planning your next trip to Athens. Now, you might think that the location of these sites – a few minutes away from Acropolis, Syntagma, and Zappeion Hall – might be the sole reason for their inclusion in top-notch travel guides and publications.
But you’d be surprised to find that there is much more to these significant monuments than serving as a unique backdrop for tourist photographs; and that their reputation is completely justified.
Of course, the iconic attractions of Athens like the Parthenon and the Acropolis museum will always end up on the top spots of your bucket list.
Yet, we urge you to save some time for visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian, especially if you’re interested in experiencing the rich cultural heritage and history of Athens. All you have to do now is follow this guide and make the most of your time there.
What Is the Temple of Olympian Zeus?
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, more commonly known as the Columns of Olympian Zeus or simply the Olympieion among the locals, refers to the remnants of an ancient colossal temple that was dedicated to Zeus, the patriarch figure of all Olympian Gods and the ruler of Mount Olympus.
The famous temple is located in the city center of Athens, just a short walk away from the Acropolis and Syntagma Square.
The History of the Temple of Olympian Zeus
The construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus began in the 6th century BC, a time when Athens was still ruled by the notorious Athenian tyrants who commissioned its erection with the vision of it ultimately being the largest and most impressive monument in the world.
A few years later, its construction was halted due to a radical change in the regime of the city marked by the banishment of tyrant Hippias to exile.
For no less than 338 years, the temple remained incomplete, in danger of being forgotten in the sands of time.
It wasn’t until 174 BC when King Antiochus IV ordered the continuation of the construction while also decreeing that the monument be built with Pentelic marble rather than limestone and instructing that the architectural style change from Doric to Corinthian.
King Antiochus met his end before getting to see the manifestation of his ideas, however, and once again the vision of the Temple of Olympian Zeus was coming close to being devoured by lethe.
Just as the dreams of grandeur were beginning to fade, and approximately six centuries since the last stone was set into place, Roman emperor Hadrian commanded the resumption of the construction; and this time the Temple of Olympian Zeus came to completion.
The result was no less than stunning, complete with 104 columns, a large collection of religious statues, and the famous gargantuan chryselephantine statue of Zeus.
During the Roman period of Athens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was widely regarded as one of the most impressive architectural feats of the time, finally getting the glory it was destined to from centuries ago.
Unfortunately, a long series of war, invasions, and environmental catastrophes -with the most notable among them the barbarian invasion of 267 AD- left the temple in ruins.
Today, only sixteen of the original columns survive, though they are more than enough for it to be considered one of the most significant archaeological monuments in Greece and one of the top attractions of Athens.
Opening Hours of the Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus remains open daily both in summer and winter, giving visitors the chance to witness its grandeur any day they wish to.
Its opening times do differ from season to season, however.
From November through March, the temple is open from 8 am to 3.30 pm. From April through October, the temple is open from 8 am to 7 pm.
Admission Fee for the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Entrance to the Temple of Olympian Zeus is free for EU citizens up to 25 years old.
For non-EU citizens, the entrance fee is free for children up to 5 years old.
The rest of the visitors are required to pay a fee to enter the temple’s premises. The ticket costs €6 but there is also the option for a reduced fee of €3 for students.
What Is the Arch of Hadrian?
The Arch of Hadrian is an imposing triumphal arch that was constructed with the purpose of celebrating the accession of Roman Emperor Hadrian and commemorating his benevolence and generosity to the city of Athens.
It still remains unclear who commissioned and who was responsible for designing and building the monument, yet its value as one of the most prominent archeological landmarks in Athens is undeniable.
The Arch of Hadrian has a symbolic location; it was built right between the ancient city of Athens and where Hadrian’s new city was beginning to take form.
Today, Hadrian’s Arch still stands halfway between the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus enjoying its fame as one of the top 10 attractions in Athens.
The History of the Arch of Hadrian
The construction of Hadrian’s Arch is estimated to have begun in 131 BC.
The impressive monument features large masses of Pentelic marble sculpted in a symmetrical pattern to form the arch standing on top of columns with Corinthian-rhythm pilasters.
The whole design is not much different than the typical Roman arches that were common at the time.
A long time after its construction, in the 18th century, Hadrian’s Arch was used as one of the seven main gates that formed a defensive wall around the city built by Turks to protect the city from raiders and pillagers.
Today, the Arch of Hadrian still stands tall amidst the hustle and bustle of modern-day Athens inviting visitors to immerse themselves into the fascinating history of the city.
How to Get to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian
Both the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch boasts a very central location in the heart of Athens and are situated very close to each other.
The best way to get there is by taking the metro and getting off at Acropolis station (red line), Syntagma station (red and blue lines), or Syggroy-Fix station (red line). However, if you’re already downtown, you can also easily walk to the monuments from the Plaka neighborhood, Syntagma, Thission, Petralona, and the iconic Monastiraki.
There are plenty of hotels near the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian to choose from. And to be completely candid, even if you weren’t looking for a hotel close to these monuments, there’s a good chance you would end up booking your stay in one anyway, considering their location is in the heart of Athens downtown.
Accommodation options in the nearby areas of Plaka, Syntagma, Koukaki, and Thission are virtually endless, but we’ll try our best to help you pick the hotel that is more suitable for your needs.
If you’re looking for a truly luxurious hotel experience near the Temple of Olympian Zeus, look no further than The Athens Gate Hotel that features lush accommodation with great views as well as a high-end rooftop restaurant.
Another example of a sought-after luxury hotel situated close to the famous monuments is Electra Palace Athens, a five-star hotel that offers impeccable personalized services and features an inviting rooftop outdoor pool with birdseye views of Athens.
On the other hand, if you want to skip the traditional-style accommodation options in favor of a tailor-made boutique hotel experience for your stay in Athens, (read here in which area to stay in Athens and why), your options will be all but limited.
Located in the famous area of Koukaki, Coco-mat Athens BC should be among your first choices if you’re looking for contemporary design and a fresh atmosphere in the heart of Athens.
Finally, staying in downtown Athens can surely prove to be pricey but that doesn’t mean you will have a hard time finding more budget-friendly hotels near the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian.
Just have a look at the three-star Omiros Hotel that features cozy accommodation with fully refurbished rooms. One of the best value for money accommodation options for your stay in Athens. Check this budget-friendly hotel on booking.com.
Not convinced yet? Adam’s Hotel will prove our point by offering comfortable accommodation at great prices. From all the budget hotels in Athens, Adams Hotel is very much popular among the tourists! And the best part? It’s located right next to the metro station and only a short walk away from the city center. Check the Adam’s Hotel on booking.com.
Where to Eat Near the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Marveling at the ancient wonders of Athens and discovering its famous monuments is one thing, but there will come a time when you will need to take a short break and get a taste of authentic Greek cuisine.
When this time comes, make sure to check out these recommendations for the best restaurants near the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian.
The Athens Gate Roof Top Restaurant
The Athens Gate Roof Top Restaurant is excellent for those looking for a premium gastronomic experience. Occupying the top floor of the Athens Gate Hotel, this restaurant combines an eclectic mix of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine with impeccable views of the Acropolis.
Address: The Athens Gate Hotel 10 Syngrou Ave, Athens 11742 Greece
Telephone: +30 21 0923 8302
Veganaki is located just a breath away from the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian. Though it might seem like a sophisticated street food joint at first, there’s no doubt their homemade healthy vegan snacks and meals will convince you otherwise.
Located just a breath away from the metro station of Acropolis, Belpaese is a charming small restaurant serving traditional Italian cuisine paired with a large collection of wines. An ideal haven for a quick pit stop between sightseeing.
Address: Athanassiou Diakou 6 Metro station Akropolis, Athens 117 42 Greece
Telephone: +30 21 1404 4172
Though located just a bit further away from the rest of our suggestions on this list, we’re sure that the contemporary Greek cuisine and the panoramic terrace views of this Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant will make the walk worth your while.
Address: Dionysiou Areopagitou 5 On The 7th Floor Of The Hotel, Athens 11742 Greece
Telephone: +30 21 0920 0240
If that’s not enough and you need more options about where to eat in Athens, we got you covered: Check some of the best restaurants in Athens in the link below.
Tips on Visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian
Even though both Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are among the top attractions in Athens, the significance of the two monuments for Greek history and culture are often overlooked.
In this section, we’ll try to answer frequently asked questions regarding the two monuments as well as give you some useful tips for your visit.
What was the Temple of Olympian Zeus used for?
The Temple of Olympian Zeus was originally used as a place of worship for the leader of the Olympian Gods and ruler of Mount Olympus, none other than Zeus.
How was the Temple of Olympian Zeus built?
The construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus took place as part of a building program that Roman Emperor Hadrian designed for Athens around the year 125 AD. The temple was built with Pentelic marble and occupied a prominent position within the confines of the ancient city of Athens.
Is the Temple of Zeus free?
Entrance to the Temple of Olympian Zeus is free of charge only for children up to 5 years old and EU citizens up to 25 years old. The rest of the visitors need to purchase a ticket. Tickets cost €6 (six euros). There are also reduced fee tickets for students that cost €3 (three euros).
How old is the Temple of Olympian Zeus?
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the oldest buildings you can see in Athens. Its construction started in 131 Ad, meaning that the impressive building is no less than 1890 years old.
Who created the Temple of Olympian Zeus?
The construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus was a process that spanned over several centuries. Thus many architects contributed to its final form, However, some of those that are commonly credited for having worked on the impressive monument include Antistates, Antimachides, Callaeschrus, and Porinus among many others.
How tall is the Temple of Zeus?
The temple of Olympian Zeus stands at approximately 21 meters high.
How many columns does the Temple of Zeus have?
In its complete form, the Temple of Olympian Zeus had 104columns made of marble. Each was around 17 meters high and had a diameter of 2 meters.
When was the Arch of Hadrian built?
It is estimated that Hadrian’s was built around 131 AD, not long before the Roman Emperor Hadrian arrived in Athens for a visit.
Why does Hadrian’s Arch stand in Athens Greece?
The Arch of Hadrian is located in Athens, Greece. Its was built to celebrate the arrival of Roman Emperor Hadrian to the city and commemorate his contribution to making Athens one of the greatest cities during his time.
To sum it all up, we’re certain that sights like the Parthenon and Acropolis Museum will always be on the top of your bucket list.
We’re certain, however, that after reading this detailed guide and getting more insight on the significance of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian have for the cultural heritage of Athens, you’ll be able to see them in a new light and enjoy them for what they truly are; two of the most impressive and symbolic landmarks of the marvelous city of Athens.
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